With the looming threat of terrorism in the West Africa region, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is seeking assistance from the Jewish State of Israel to beef up Liberia’s security preparedness, especially at a time when the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which has provided security for the country for the past 13 years is scaling down its operations by June 30.
President Sirleaf said at the Roberts International Airport upon arrival to Liberia after a week-long visit, which ended in Israel, that her trip to that country was to seek help to train Liberian security forces.
“Our trip in Israel was simply to see how we can ask that country’s government to further train Liberia’s security apparatuses,” she told Executive Mansion reporters.
The recent attacks in neighbouring Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire along with the wave of terror being carried out by Boko Haram in Nigeria are serving as grave threats to West Africa. President Sirleaf said at a meeting with Israeli authorities, it was agreed that these emerging threats must be tackled collectively.
Defense Minister, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. was also part of the delegation that made the trip to that Middle Eastern country.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) mandate in Liberia comes to an end June 30, though authorities say that some staff or officers would be stationed on the ground until the 2017 elections. The government insists that it is prepared to take over its security
when UNMIL departs, though many continue to doubt this assertion.
Prior to visiting Israel, the President paid official visits to the United States as well as Dakar, Senegal, where she attended the ECOWAS Summit of Heads of State and Government. There she was unanimously elected as the new ECOWAS Chair.
President Sirleaf noted that as new Chair for the regional body, she intends to work closely with the ECOWAS Peace and Security Council (ECOWAS-PSC). “I will support the leadership of the PSC,” she said. The PSC is chaired and co-chaired by a Beninois and a Gambian respectively.
President Sirleaf said she met with the PSC’s new leadership right after her election as Chair of ECOWAS. This meeting, she said, shows how serious the issue of security in the region is, especially at a time when terrorism is menacing the region.
“These two men have the agenda that comes from the authority, which is the group of Presidents, which I chair. We approve the agenda in summits that are held like the one in Dakar recently,” she said.
“ECOWAS has a Peace and Security Council; and this council has an agenda for security in the region. I’m willing to work with them to achieve the agenda of the commission,” she said.
“My role is simply to work with the PSC heads and their staff to carry on that agenda, and as well stay in consultation with my colleagues, take their pieces of advice and counsel and make sure that collectively we carry out what we have set as the goal for the region.”
As for the benefits her country would enjoy following her election to ECOWAS chairmanship, President Sirleaf said that there is no particular preference that comes to one’s country for occupying the highest office of the regional body, rather Liberia will benefit as it has been all along during the reigns of past chairmen.
She noted that she intends to work with her colleagues to promote the ECOWAS Agenda that will ensure all the countries are able to carry out their development objectives; to have interconnectivities in all the things we want to do – particularly our peace and security as well as infrastructure.
“We will work together collectively for our people in all of the 15 countries of ECOWAS” she added.
Meanwhile President Sirleaf noted that her delegation also used the Israel visit to see how Liberia could benefit from the extreme technical works that Israel has done in the agricultural sector.
“As you may know, we are now focusing on agriculture for our economic diversification and Israel has done tremendously well in this sector. We all are so surprise to know that with the desert land that they have they grow all sorts of things, some of which they are exporting. So we asked the Israeli authorities for people to come and give some technical supports to our farmers,” she said.